Camping Wind Turbine




About: I enjoy building and inventing; I love creating new things and improving on old ideas. I am a student at BYU and am studying under a Mechanical Engineering Major. I enjoy camping, hiking, and backpacking.

Camping's all about enjoying the outdoors; but let's face it - electronics are hard to power in the outdoors...There's nothing worse than pulling out your camera to snap a photo of a great view and finding out your battery's dead! Generators are heavy and difficult to lug around, and so the perfect solution is a green source of free energy: the wind!

Although this turbine -because of its small size and lightweight nature- isn't exactly going to run at 120V, it's capable of charging batteries and such. But when the whole thing weighs only 16 ounces, i'd say that's a fair trade off. With access to some fairly simple materials and tools, you can make your very own camping wind turbine!

Even in a low breeze, this turbine is capable of creating a good amount of voltage (see video). A leaf blower is used in this video to create the "wind", however, it is far enough away from the turbine that it only creates the equivalent of a light breeze. The units on the voltmeter are in thousandths of volts and in this video the turbine creates over 1/3 of a volt.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

1/2 inch PVC "T" joint
1" ABS Rod
1" to 1/2" PVC Coupler
3/4" Aluminum Pipe
DC Servo Motor 
1/16" Thick ABS Sheeting
1/8" Stainless Steel Rod
1/8" Threaded Hex Screws
Insulated Wire
Electrical Tape
Black Spraypaint
Green Spraypaint

You won't be able to find a lot of these items at your nearest Home Depot. It took me a bit of scrounging to get these materials; luckily you don't need large quantities of them.

Scrollsaw or Bandsaw
Lathe or drill press (or crazy good drilling skills...)
Locking pliers
Soldering Iron

Step 2: Motor Setup

The central "hub" originally had 6 holes drilled equidistantly around the 1" ABS piece. After experimentation with the blades, however, I discovered that 3 blades works more efficiently than 6 with my setup. These holes receive the bolts that the blades are attached to.

Drill a hole axially into the center of the ABS "hub" piece to receive the "corkscrew" end of the motor. Once the hole is drilled, glue the "hub" to the motor.  

I'll have to admit I got rather lucky on this one; the motor i found was incredibly small and -after some work on the lathe- fit into a slightly modified 1/2" PVC "T" joint. Push the motor in far enough so that the leads are visible through the bottom of the "T" joint. Once the motor is situated correctly and evenly, glue it into place.

Once the motor is glued in, solder wires to the leads on the motor (these wires should be rather long as they will have to feed down the length of the stand and out the bottom). Next, attach the 1" to 1/2" coupler to the bottom of the "T" joint.

On the other end of the "T" joint, cut a slot for the "tail" piece.

Step 3: Blades!

As mentioned earlier, some tests brought me to the conclusion that 3 blades would work better than 6 for this turbine. My blades are 7 inches long and a little bit over 1 3/4" at the widest point.

Cut the blades out of the 1/16" thick ABS sheeting and sand the edges to remove any burrs. I decided to paint my blades green so that they would stand out from the rest of the apparatus. Drill a hole about a 1/2" from the base of the blade. Then attach the blade to the ABS hub with a 1/8" Hex Screw

Follow the same process with the "tail" piece, however, cut out two from the 1/16" sheeting and glue them together so that they fit snugly into the slot on the PVC "T". I left the last 1/2" of the tail black so that it would match the PVC "T" when pushed into the slot.

Step 4: The Stand

Cut the aluminum pipe to a 12" length and then cut 4 equidistant slots into the bottom. These slots should be about 1 1/4" high. Then, cut two rectangular pieces out of the sheeting and cut slots about halfway through both of them. These should fit nicely together and be long enough to extend about an inch past the aluminum pipe (see pictures for clarity).

As shown in picture 5, cut 8 of these pieces (about 1 1/4" wide and 12" to 14" long). Drill three holes in each of these pieces: one on each end and one about 4 inches in from the side without the angled cut.

On the side of the more closely drilled holes, cut a rounded corner (this will allow the "legs" to fold upwards toward the aluminum pipe).
Attach the 8 pieces (in pairs) to each of the four corners of the cross-piece that is attached to the aluminum pipe (see pictures for clarity). I used the 1/8" Hex screws but really any bolt or screw should work. The hole on the side of the angled cut will be for attaching the stakes.

Step 5: Painting!

I have a turbine and I want to paint it black....

This is probably the most simple and yet most fulfilling of all the steps. Once it's painted all nicely, it takes on a real sleek, professional look. I used black spray paint and put on a layer or two just to be safe. Make sure to paint the "legs" of the stand in the extended and the folded positions.

Step 6: Stakes

Cut the 1/8" stainless steel rod into 4 6" lengths. At about 3" down the piece, begin the triangular bend for the stake. After some finagling with the locking pliers and a pair of needle nose pliers, I was able to get it bent into shape. It may be a little tricky at first but you'll get the hang of it. 

Leave the triangle open at the bottom so that you can run it through the hole on the "leg" pieces. I actually left mine about 1/4" open to allow free movement when folding of the legs. any smaller, and the stakes would get stuck and get in the way.

Step 7: Test It Out!

Fold it out, stake it down, and test it out!

Using a leafblower as my controllable "wind" source, I tested out the wind turbine to make sure everything worked nicely. The camera isnt quite able to keep up with the spinning blades, but in case you're wondering, they're going REALLY fast (over 1000 rpm, and generating over 1.6 Volts in the process). 

This wind turbine isn't exactly for charging your phone, however, it works perfectly for charging rechargeable batteries and such. It's portable nature makes it easy to carry around and it's lightweight design makes it an option even for backpackers. The motor and blade setup weighs only 5 ounces and can be very easily detached from the stand and attached to a hiking pole. In short, there's a lot of flexibility with this design and I can't wait to use it on my next backpacking trip! 
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    90 Discussions


    2 years ago

    does anyone know if the measurements given are for radius or diameter?

    Paracord Ninja16

    7 years ago on Step 7

    You could hook up a really high voltage rechargeable battery to it and tape the turbine to the top of your car and then go drive on the interstate to your camping destination and when you get their you will have lots of free energy!

    1 reply

    The energy isn't free; you'd have paid for it in gasoline. Also, you might as well just use the 12 V you can get from your car's alternator.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I'm a tad confused about the gluing the motor to the hub and then gluing the motor to the pipe. Would the motor be inside the hub cap piece already when gluing it to the pipe?


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I'm coming late to the party here with my late comment.
    from the video's and photo's I see that you have a wind direction vane on the hub but it doesn't appear that the hub unit can turn to follow the direction of the wind?
    if it can how does that work?


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    you can get way better ones out of old printers. i go to our local AMVET store, they sell for $5 for a complete printer! at least that's the brushed dc motor i use to get around 7 volts dc on a typical sustained wind here in buffalo.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    remote control cars usually have them. check that or an old gameing system controler with the "rumble" vibration motors.

    I'm terribly sorry but i'm not sure i can explain to you where to find one; I was lucky enough to come across one after some serious searching and scrounging. Hopefully you can find something similar online but unfortunately I can't offer you a lot of help. Good Luck!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    You can get the motors from most hobby shops. I went to Toys R Us in the 90's and bought a dozen of them on clearance for less than $2 each. They may still have them there. They are used to drive small battery powered cars.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    i really need to know where you get this motor to build my science project I have a dead line where i have to build it repeat an experiment 10 times then record it, write it down make a graph, make a discussion, post it ALL on a poster board and turn it in by Jan, 25


    7 years ago on Introduction



    7 years ago on Introduction

    this is awesome! thank you! we were considering buying solar panels but this better. might make 2! and for all those people who keep saying stuff about how camping is meant to be for getting away from this kind of stuff. you people must not like light, music or taking pictures. you need power for these things. why not get it for free. and im not sure when and where you guys camp. but we primitive camp, and extendly, and often in the winter. so i would love to be able to have free power for watching movies at night with my warm cup of cocoa. we all camp for different reasons. some times its since to have power. thank you for this instructable!

    because you would lose more energy trying to re-charge the battery than you would actually charging it. that's if you are talking about electric vehicles.

    Gas vehicles re-charge the battery already.